The Society of Antiquaries of London supports several Regional Fellows Groups, which are organised by Fellows themselves. These groups organise antiquarian events, outings and lectures, helping Fellows living throughout the UK (and further afield) to remain engaged and involved in the full activities of the Fellowship, in addition to our London programme.
If you would like more information on our Regional Groups or would like to set up one in your area please contact our Communications Manager by email at [email protected]
You can sign-up to receive events notifications and news, by following the links below (please note, you must be a Fellow and registered on the Fellows’ Platform to access these links):
South West Fellows Group
York Fellows Group
Wales Fellows Group
ANZAP Fellows Group
What have the Regional Groups been up to?
The Welsh Fellows’ Group on the Gower - October 2023
The annual autumn weekend fieldtrip of the Welsh Fellows’ Group took place on the 13–15 October. Around thirty of us stayed at the Oxwich Bay Hotel, and spent the weekend visiting a range of sites around the Gower peninsula with expert guidance from Fellows and friends. Regrettably a few people found themselves unable to join us at the last minute owing to Covid and other illness — they are wished a very speedy recovery.
The weather over the Saturday and Sunday was beautiful, but not that on the Friday afternoon when the group assembled first to visit the Salt House at Porth Einon. Cold wind and steady rain were braved, Edith Evans FSA heroically gave an account of the structure, and the understanding gained from excavations in the later 1980s and early 1990s. This sophisticated tidal saltmaking plant dates from early in the second half of the 16th century and was in use for around a hundred years. The well-built structures were then adopted for other occupation through to the late 19th century. Inevitably, the site has attracted imaginative tales and folklore as time has passed.
That was followed by a visit to another site representing the archaeologically slightly under-appreciated development of Wales in the Tudor/Early Modern Period: Oxwich Castle, a CADW site but not one usually open to visitors. Probably the successor to a small medieval castle, the Mansel family created a large ‘prodigy house’ from the second quarter of the 16th century: this was already leased out from the 1630s, and only a more practical south wing remained in use as a farmhouse through to the 1950s although much of the whole structure survives.
On the Friday evening, Alastair Whittle FSA gave an informative talk setting the Neolithic monuments of the Gower and South Wales in the context of his and colleagues’ groundbreaking (and continuing) re-evaluation of the chronology and process of the Neolithization of Britain and Ireland. That was the prelude for visits to a number of well-preserved and presented burial monuments the following morning, with Elizabeth Walker FSA as the principal guide: Maen Ceti (Arthur’s Stone), a remarkable megalithic structure set within a dug-out hollow which fills with water, and the apparently Bronze-age Great Carn close by. These sit on the Cefn Bryn ridge of common land, with imposing views over the Loughor estuary. Next was a visit to the less conspicuously sited but no less ostentatious transverse chambered cairn at Parc-le-Breos, a site that fits intriguingly into an overlap zone between eastern and western ranges of early megalithic monuments in Britain and Ireland, while also suggesting, even in the 37th or 36th century BC, possible deliberate archaism in the choice of structural form.
The party was kindly hosted by Thomas Methuen Campbell on Saturday afternoon at Penrice, the site of another medieval castle overlooking Oxwich Bay, succeeded by an 18th-century great house, where we were introduced to the gardens and park, before being generously entertained to drinks as well as being able to see the furnishings and paintings reflecting the history of the house and its successive households. Will Davies of CADW provided another highly informed and engaged site visit to the medieval castle overlooking the mansion: an intriguing question was whether or not those well-preserved remains give us any idea of what may have preceded Oxwich Castle little more than a mile to the south. In any event, it was clear that even from the 13th and 14th centuries there, residential functions and display strongly affected building decisions.
The after-dinner talk on Saturday evening was given by Jeremy Knight FSA, reviewing in particular one of his many fields of expertise, the early post-Roman period in Wales, and especially the Atlantic trade routes and the main landing places on the Welsh shore of the Bristol Channel. As he noted, this was a trading network that embraced Ireland to the west and amongst other places Gaza to the east, a relationship with sombre overtones that weekend which the group fully recognized. Sunday morning was rather appropriately devoted to visits to some of the beautiful, small medieval churches of Gower: Llangenydd, Llanmadoc and Cheriton–St Madoc. The tour concluded at Rhosili, where Elizabeth Walker filled out an already splendid panaroma by describing Palaeolithic and Mesolithic sites known in the area, and particularly excavations at Burry Holms at what is now the far end of Rhossili Bay. Suitably, then, the final item on the programme was a late Sunday lunch at the King Arthur Hotel, Reynoldston.
As well as to our speakers and guides, particular thanks are owed to Diane Williams FSA and Chris Jones-Jenkins FSA for making all of the practical arrangements for this fieldtrip. Members of the group were looking forward already to next year’s expedition, which is already being planned for around the same time of year, to Anglesey. The Welsh Fellows’ Regional Group (Grŵp Cenedlaethol Cymrodyr Cymru) and its activities are open to and warmly welcome all Fellows, Associate Members, and their friends and partners, with an interest in the history and antiquities of Wales who wish to participate.